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Handling Setbacks with Running

How do you handle setbacks and stalls in training?

Dear Run R2P community,

Today, we want to dive into a topic that every runner encounters at some point in their journey – setbacks and stalls in training. As a runner myself, I assure you that I understand the frustrations that accompany these challenges. Let’s explore some strategies to not only cope with setbacks but also turn them into stepping stones towards improvement.

Embrace the Non-Linearity of Training

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that training is not a linear process. Progress may not always be a steady upward climb, and that’s perfectly normal. Your body goes through various cycles of adaptation, and sometimes it requires a step back to take two steps forward. Instead of viewing setbacks as roadblocks, consider them as opportunities for reassessment and adjustment. Adapt your training plan to better suit your body’s needs, reflect on what is going well or not well, reflect on what habits are helping or preventing you from accomplishing your goals, and work toward ensuring a sustainable and injury-free progression.

Practice Grace and Gratitude

In the face of setbacks, it’s easy to be hard on yourself. However, have grace with yourself and practice gratitude for the entire process. Running is not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying the journey. Acknowledge the effort you put into every run, even the challenging ones. Cultivating a positive mindset can be a powerful tool in overcoming obstacles. Gratitude for the ability to run and the lessons learned during setbacks can be transformative.

Do What You Enjoy

Running should bring joy, not just physical strain. If you’re facing setbacks, consider revisiting why you started running in the first place. Do what you enjoy – whether it’s trail running, sprints, or long, slow distances. Strategic planning is key; mix up your routine with days that are more challenging and others that are focused on enjoyment and recovery. This balance not only keeps things interesting but also helps prevent burnout and injuries.

Embrace Progressive Overload

The principle of progressive overload is the aggregation of marginal gains. Instead of pushing yourself to extremes, focus on small, consistent improvements. Gradually increase your mileage, pace, or incorporate strength training and don’t forget to add those occasional de-load weeks. This approach not only reduces the risk of injury but also ensures that your body is continually adapting and becoming stronger. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a resilient, high-performing runner.

Reflect on Your Journey

Take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. Setbacks can make it easy to forget the progress you’ve achieved. Whether it’s running your first 5K or conquering a challenging trail, celebrate those victories. Reflecting on your journey can reignite the passion for running and serve as a reminder that setbacks are just temporary detours on the path to success.

Setbacks and stalls are an inevitable part of the running journey. As your dedicated performance physical therapist and run coach, we encourage you to approach these challenges with a positive mindset, strategic planning, and a deep appreciation for the process. Remember, every step, even the seemingly backward ones, is a step towards becoming a stronger, more resilient runner.

-Keep running strong!, Dr. Greg.

Need guidance along your training and running journey? Check out our guides, templates, and support from Dr. Greg with our online platform, R2P+ . Get Started Now!

running physical therapist

Dr. Greg Ellis PT, DPT, CSCS

Performance Physical Therapist 

Follow Greg on Instagram (HERE) for more content and to see his running progress!


Fitness Focused Physical Therapy

Running injuries holding you back? Rehab 2 Perform specializes in preventing risk to re-injury and empowering you with the tools to stay active. We serve the AnnapolisBethesdaColumbiaFrederickGambrillsGermantown and Mt. Airy areas in Maryland, and now in Leesburg, and the Tysons Corner Business District in Virginia. Contact us today at 1(301) 798- 4838 or schedule an appointment by visiting us here today. 

We accept all major insurances, including Tricare, VA Community Care, and the Johns Hopkins Healthcare Network!

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